All Aboard My Education Nostalgic Train

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

All Aboard My Education Nostalgic Train

apps.jpgI have a confession to make:  I am one-half Russian, one-fourth German and one-half nerd.

When I think about all the students who get to buy new notebooks and pens (Velocity for sure), sit through hour-and-a-half lectures about how one finds the moral fortitude to challenge company policies,  or enjoy a 40-minute high school period about symbolism in “Emma,” I get nostalgic. While others might actually miss the high school prom, beer pong, and formals instead (and yes I miss that, too), call me crazy, but I actually miss the learning part more.

In the spirit of nostalgia (and as I sit here fantasizing about what I would be doing at 2:30 p.m. at Syracuse University right now if I was still in college), today’s blog will focus on the coolest apps that I would have loved to have at my disposable as school gets back in session.  


Was anyone else that nerdy elementary school student who would be busily cram for a long division quiz and then get upset when you ran out of practice problems? No? Just me? Well, thanks to MathBoard, school nerds can now get a whole lot more practice, as the app can generate random problems, up to 250 questions per quiz. MathBoard is adequate for all age ranges as the app includes everything from addition and subtraction to square cubes and square roots.

Moreover, students can use the app to take practice quizzes and even time themselves. Wrong answers are reviewable with both the incorrect and correct answer visible, and there are quick reference math tables for addition, subtraction and multiplication.

Stack the States:

As someone who still has trouble figuring out what time it is in California if it is 10 a.m. in New York (and don’t even get me started with London), the Stack the States app could have really come in handy for me in elementary school. This app, which was voted Best Kids App for iPad in 2010 and Best Educational Game App by, allows students to play geography quiz games that ask questions such as “What state’s capital is Austin?” (and if you attended ITEXPO, you know the answer to that one!)

If students respond correctly, users drop the state onto the bottom of the screen, attempting to stack the states beyond a line about a third of the way up. When the line is reached, users are awarded a state as a prize.

Features include interactive maps and 50 state flash cards; high resolution pictures of famous US landmarks; information about state capitals, shapes and bordering states; and free bonus games such as Pile Up, Puzzler and Capital Drop.

I have a funny feeling I am not the only adult who could benefit from this app.


For those students who won’t get to enjoy playing instruments until high school (or even college), GarageBand is the perfect app, as it features a multitude of touch instruments and a full-featured recording studio. The app allows students to use multi-touch gestures to play pianos, organs, drums and guitars on the iPad.

With a little help from the built-in microphone, users can record any performance and then mix up to eight tracks to create songs to share.

Mad Libs:

I am sure all of us can recall those wonderful days of choosing words like “donkey” when the space said noun and “slimy” when the space said adjective and then reading the most hilarious Mad Lib ever. Now, the fun children’s pastime has moved to the iPhone and iPod Touch as the game is available in a new interactive and digital platform. So how does this make a mark in the classroom? By teaching young students about parts of speech in a fun way.

Students can take turns supplying verbs, adverbs, pronouns and adjectives and then sit back and read the outrageously funny Mad Libs.

The app includes anew interactive platform for unlimited game play for children and adults; an email option so that users can share their stories; and an interactive fill-in the blank-type pad and hints to help educate.

Star Walk:

For those kids who always had trouble distinguishing the Big Dipper from the Milky Way, rest assured, as there is a new iPad app that allows you to point your tablet at the sky and see what stars, constellations and satellites you are looking at in real time.

“This is the best stargazing iPhone application I have come across,'' Matt Sawyers of The iPhone Blog said in a recent interview. 

Some of the coolest features include: Star Spotter, a real time motion tracker that tells you what stars are above you in the sky;  Satellites Tracking, so that you never miss the ISS flying over your head again;
and Time Machine, so that students can see what the sky looks like at any moment in the past or future.

All I know is that if I had been lucky enough to have these apps when I was in school, maybe I would have been the world’s first mathematician astronomer able to compose a song about state capitals. Anyone care to join me on the nostalgic bandwagon?



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When I think about all the students who get to buy new notebooks and pens (Velocity for sure), sit through hour-and-a-half lectures about how one finds the moral fortitude to challenge company policies, or how others get to enjoy a 40-minute high school period about symbolism in “Emma,” I get nostalgic.

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